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Valiant Comeback Not Enough

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
The All-Star break has arrived and it may have come at a good time, as most of the Buffalo Sabres players and coaches get time to recuperate from the brutal stretch that the team just went through, playing seven games in eleven days. In the last game before the break, Buffalo lost for the first time this season to the Montreal Canadians at the Bell Centre, 4-3.

Buffalo had to battle back against Vancouver the night before and then they had to travel to Montreal for the second game of the back-to-back while the Northeast Division rival was waiting and resting for the Sabres. With that, the Sabres came out flat to start the game while the Canadians came out flying and it took awhile for Buffalo to get back on track.

"It took us awhile to get our legs going and get skating the way we can," said co-captain Daniel Briere, who had two of Buffalo's goals. "Halfway through the game we started to take over and we battled back. We never quit, and that’s what we're trying to do whether we're up by two goals or down by two goals.

"We're disappointed," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "You want to win the last one before going into the break and we didn't. I have to realize that it was a tough situation for us, and it was a pretty hard fought game for our team."

The Sabres made a valiant effort at a comeback, after being down 3-0 as they scored three straight but it was not enough as Michael Ryder broke the 3-3 tie with just 2:53 left in the game when he one-timed a pass from Alexander Perezhogin just past the reach of Martin Biron's glove hand.

"There were a lot of things that I liked in the game," said Ruff. "I liked the way we battled back by putting constant pressure we put on. We were able to put ourselves in the position to get points in the game."

Instead of looking at the short term and the loss to the Canadiens tonight, the players and fans can focus on the big picture. At the All-Star break, the Sabres sit in first place in the Eastern Conference with 70 points (33-12-4) and are 11 points ahead of the second place Canadiens in the Northeast Division.

"Tonight until we go to bed, it's a very tough loss," said co-captain Chris Drury. "We battled hard to get back.

"But when you wake up tomorrow, you have to look at the all the work and all the points we have and just come back and get ready for Columbus on Friday."

"It's been a very good start and we're happy in the position where we are," said Briere. "But there are a lot of little things we need to improve on to finish the season."

Usually when a team is on the powerplay, goals result from crisp passes, which lead to the defense and goaltender being out of position. This powerplay was a little different as Montreal took the 1-0 lead off a fluke goal. Tomas Plekanec shot the puck into the zone and the puck ricocheted off a strip between the glass. Biron went to play the puck but the puck bounced to the front of the net where Guillaume Latendresse buried his 10th of the season into the wide open net.

Montreal increased their lead to 2-0 with just 29 seconds left in the first period when Saku Koivu connected on the powerplay for his 16th of the season. Koivu was set up in front of the net, took a centering pass from Alex Kovalev and beat a sprawling Biron over his right shoulder.

Montreal took a commanding 3-0 lead, 4:49 into the second period when Francis Bouillon connected on his second of the season. After Biron made the initial save, the long rebound went out to the defenseman who buried the puck past Biron's stick side.

Briere finally got Buffalo on the board at 9:04 of the second after pin-point passing from Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville allowed Briere to roof the puck over Huet from the left side of the net for his 17th of the season.

Just after a powerplay opportunity had ended, Derek Roy tallied his ninth of the season and brought Buffalo to within one at 16:11 of the second period, as he threw the puck to the front of the net from the right side. The puck deflected off a Montreal defenseman's skate and just over Huet's pad.

Briere netted his second of the night and 18th of the season to tie the score at three, as he deflected Brian Campbell's shot from the point past Huet's right pad at 8:37 of the third period.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.
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